School’s Out Forever // Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins

SummerDaysAndSummerNightsTitle: Summer Days and Summer Nights

Position: Standalone Anthology

Editor: Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Isla and the Happily Ever After)

Genres: Contemporary/Fantasy/Horror/Magical Realism/Paranormal/Science Fiction

Pages: 384

Rating: 3.5/5

Maybe it’s the long, lazy days, or maybe it’s the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.

I’m sure that I’ve read anthologies before, but not in recent memory, so this was a bit of a outside-my-comfort-zone book for me. It’s full of stories by authors I’ve never read before, so that just made the whole thing even more unusual for me. I’m glad I read it, but it was definitely a mixed bag – I averaged up all of the ratings for each individual story and got a rating of 3.625, which I rounded down to 3.5 because it was easier, and I was surprised by how many super-high and super-low ratings I ended up with. I’m definitely interested in checking out some other anthologies, but also a bit cautious after an uneven experience.

Heads, Scales, Tongue, Tail by Leigh Bardugo

This was my second story, but it’s the opening one. I think it’s a pretty good opening story – not too long, especially compared to some of the 40 or 50-some page stories, and it has a relatively happy ending while still being interesting and not at all cliched. This story seems kind of like a magical realism tale, definitely not realistic fiction, and that made it interesting. I’m not sure I cared about the romance too much, but the relationship between the couple was still relatively engaging.

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The End of Love by Nina LaCour

I loved Nina LaCour’s Everything Leads to You (I gave it 5 stars! I almost never do that!), so when I saw that she had a story in this, I immediately decided that I would save this story and read it as one of my final ones. It didn’t stand up to my incredible love of her latest full-length book (although she has a new book she co-wrote, right?), but it was still a lovely F/F romance with little to no sexuality angst. The main reason I didn’t rate it higher is because it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. Writing this review less than a month later, I only remember some of the main bits, not the details that made up the story.

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Last Stand at the Cinegore by Libba Bray

Libba Bray! If you know anything about her past books, that tells you enough about this little story, which starts off about the last night at an old horror-movie-obsessed movie theater and ends with people turning into people-eating demon things from a movie that’s more than a C-list horror flick. It was fun to read, from the protagonist’s mild obsession with his fellow employee to the paranormal aspects of it all, although the sudden introduction of these paranormal aspects did throw me for a loop a bit – although it really shouldn’t have, considering it’s Libba Bray.

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Sick Pleasure by Francesca Lia Block

Since I was skipping around, I read this story first – it was one of the shorter ones and I just wanted a quick start to get me started. Unfortunately, I kind of hated the story. The more I thought about it after I finished it, the more I disliked it. For me, it represented why I tend to dislike adult books that I typically label “literary fiction.” It never really engaged me – just about every character was known by a single letter and that really kept me from getting to understand them for some reason. The romance had a few cute moments, but they would only last for a couple paragraphs before life became awful again. I’m glad I knew ahead of time that not all of these stories have happy endings, because this one DEFINITELY didn’t. And one of the things I love about YA is that they tend to be full of hope for the future, so many different possibilities, but this was totally the opposite. It might have captured a bit of how I felt when high school was ending, but that was already stressful enough to live through – I don’t want to read about it as well.

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In Ninety Minutes, Turn North by Stephanie Perkins

After feeling kind of meh about Stephanie Perkins’s Isla and the Happily Ever After, I didn’t go into the editor’s story with high expectations, but that just made it easier to impress me. This was a pretty cute and self-contained romance that dealt with a couple who broke up but obviously weren’t over each other. I got swept up in their romance and their characters, especially as post-high school young adults.

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Souvenirs by Tim Federle

Since I’m not a big fan of male POV, I miss out on plenty of M/M romances as the central relationship, so it was nice to get a short story that does exactly that. Like some other stories, this was more about an end of a relationship, a summer fling that brought two opposites together and let them grow as people as a result. I don’t remember quite how it ends anymore, but I enjoyed it while reading.

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Inertia by Veronica Roth

Yeah, this story just wasn’t for me. It was science fiction, I think? I didn’t care about the characters very much and just did my best to speed through it. I didn’t hate it, at least as far as I remember, but it wasn’t very memorable and I simply didn’t care. *shrugs*

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Love is the Last Resort by Jon Skovron

This story was delightfully banter-y. It was really absurd, but I was having way too much fun to care. It takes place at a resort, focusing on the very young staff along with some entertaining guests, parents and children alike. There are blossoming romances between a body builder and a manager (or whatever he is) and a rich heiress and an extremely shy scholar; in fact, the weakest romance is probably the one between the two “main” characters, a new employee and an “old” expert, but like I said, they were both too entertaining and full of quips and dry sarcasm for me to really care. Five stars for all the fun!

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Good Luck and Farewell by Brandi Colbert

This story was a great example of racial and sexual diversity as well as a cute cousinly friendship, but it just wasn’t that memorable. Even as I read it, I was a little unimpressed. I wanted to love it for all its diversity, but unfortunately diversity does not automatically make for an impressive story. It’s not bad, although I will say that the brief romantic angst where the girl and the boy who will obviously end up together seem to dislike each other for almost no reason, but it just wasn’t good enough to leave a lasting impression.

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Brand New Attraction by Cassandra Clare

I’ll admit it, I went into this story wanting to hate it or simply dislike it because it’s by a woman who built part of her success on plagiarism, but it really wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t my favorite story by a long shot, but it certainly wasn’t my least favorite of the bunch. The whole demon-powered circus thing seemed odd, but it was also a nice departure from the fact that all of her published work seems to focus on the same universe and basic story (of course, all of what I say is based on things I’ve heard, no what I’ve read – this was the first thing I’d ever read by her). There weren’t a lot of surprises, and I’d probably give this story a basic “meh,” but that’s definitely better than I expected, so that’s probably a good sign for this story.

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A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong by Jennifer E. Smith

The trouble with short stories is that there’s so much less to read and thus to remember, as is quickly becoming clear as I review this anthology a month or so later. This was another story that I obviously liked enough to give a full 4.5 stars, but I still don’t remember much other than the fact that the love interest was somewhere on the spectrum and that the protagonist was a camp counselor who slowly got closer to a camper who was also on the spectrum somewhere. It was cute, but it wasn’t the most memorable story of the bunch.

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The Map of Tiny Perfect Things by Lev Grossman

This was way too male and juvenile for me. A 14 or 15 year old boy is stuck in a Groundhog Day-situation, but he mostly uses this phenomenon to be a lazy teenage boy. Then he discovers that there’s a girl his age who is experiencing the same thing, and they start to discover “miracles” that happen, but things get screwed up and she disappears on him and he becomes boring again. I know, I’m underselling it, and I’m sure that there are some people who will like it, but it just really wasn’t for me. The only reason I didn’t rate it lower is because I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t care for it, and it seemed like the female love interest was indirectly the protagonist, even if it wasn’t from her point of view, and that was kind of cool, even though she had touches of Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

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